“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese
Deep inside, below the gristle and bones part of you, lies the memory of a memory. Sleeping like a lazy cat somewhere in the part of you that has forgotten its own name but remembers the sound.
July 15, 1983 was hot and muggy and humid.
I actually do not remember this at all, but I must assume that somewhere it was this way.
I was in South New Jersey, and my father was dying, and I am quite sure it was hot and muggy and humid because how else could it have been?
Every year I forget until I remember.
There is a sense of urgency in the weight of my footsteps as if they are trying to get somewhere without me. I hear my voice and realize there is something behind the words, but I am not sure what it is until I hear the date spoken aloud.
Ah! The date my father died. A voice that either belongs to me or doesn’t speaks inside my mind.
This is why I love yoga: It unburies the sounds of things you have buried in your body.
It’s the body that remembers. Always.
It’s the body that is the sleeping cat.
The mind cannot be trusted. The mind will tell you it has forgotten, while the body, the body will never lie.
The body cradles the memory within it and will show it to you in a flash as you buy milk at the store or fold forward in a yoga pose. The body will remind you that today is the day your father died all those years ago.
If the body forgot, there would be no more memories and today might just be another day on the calendar, like any other with its weather and dust and cups of coffee and love and disappointments.
July 15 is the day my father died in the middle of the night before his heart could be pumped back in time. And although I do not mark it down anywhere on any calendar, and although I sometimes I do try and forget, my body remembers, and there comes a moment on July 15, no matter what year, when I bow my head and shake my fist at the sky.
Forgive your muscles and your joints for not forgetting, for keeping that imprint alive in such a way that one day you will look back on your life and whisper to it:
Dear Life, Of all the things I have forgotten, and there have been many, I thank you for taking these snapshots and leaving them with me in stone, because without them I would be insufferable with wonder at how the events of my life slipped past me before I was able to discover who I was in time.
So go ahead and think you are forgetting.
It won’t matter. You aren’t and you can’t.
There is an imprint in you that says: This is when this happened.
The stamp has been laid.
So let your mind be open and go ahead and buy milk in the store, and every once in a while when you feel a pang in your heart or a splurge of oh my God in your bones, please understand what it is:
It is your life, trying to be remembered.
What don’t want to forget? Share your memories you’ve tucked away.
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Yoga® weekend retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Feb 1–3, 2013.